irrefutable evidence

Dogs
are
convincing evidence that there is a God.

~ Michael WadeRandom Thoughts: Brief Reflections and Moments of Clarity


Photo: Our Zeke (2007-2016)

From this Papa too. Yes. Me too.

My favorite space is the living room, by the fireplace. It’s warm and serene, and covered in adobe tiles made by an artist friend of mine when he was in his 90s. I practice there when I’m not on tour.

Perhaps my most beloved possession is a framed note on the wall that my father wrote to me in his 90s. He didn’t communicate well with his kids. In the note, he wrote, “Dearest Joanie, I love it when you visit me. From your Papa, with love.” It pleases me that he finally wrote me something nice.

~ Joan Baez, from  How Joan Baez Found Her Voice (wsj.com, Feb 27, 2018)


 

Peaceful easy feeling

house-feb-2018

53° F on Friday.

39° on Saturday morning.

Spring!

So when it started at 7 pm last night, it felt anything but that.  A December feeling in February.

Large, wet flakes, falling softly.

I turn off the television. Enough Mueller, Trump, collusion, and spit from the talking heads on Cable. Dirty. Ugly.

Light from the street lamps paint the fresh snow with a soft amber glow. Magical. “This voice keeps whispering in my other ear…I get this peaceful easy feeling…”

I watch from the window inside.

Mother and Son build a snowman, Eric is days from his 24th birthday.  They’re giggling.

Flashbacks. Rosy cheeks. Over sized mittens. Snow pants swishing. Arms swinging up and down, angels in snow. What’s this portrait missing? Rachel who couldn’t make it home for the weekend. And Zeke. Yes, Zeke loved the snow. Snow flakes melting on his velvety reddish brown fur. Barking, and barking and barking at Dad who chases the kids and pelts them with snowballs. Who you protecting these days Bud? [Read more…]

the beginning, the middle, and the end

They sleep early and rise in the dark. It is winter now. The nights are long but outside, where the leaves have fallen from the branches, the snowed-in light comes through. There is a cat who finds the puddles of sunshine. She was small when the boy was small, but then she grew up and left him behind. Still, at night, she hunkers down on Kiri’s bed, proprietorial. They were born just a few weeks apart, but now he is seven and she is forty-four. My son is the beginning, the middle, and the end. When he was a baby, I used to follow him on my hands and knees, the two of us crawling over the wood floors, the cat threading between our legs. Hello, hello, my son would say. Hello, my good friend. How are you? He trundled along, an elephant, a chariot, a glorious madman.

 

Running to 2018. (Not.) Grounded.

It’s the morning weigh-in, the same weigh-in that takes place every morning during the prior 365 days, but there are differences. Major similarities and major differences. A few notables.

It’s New Year’s Day.

It’s early morning, and I’m in the bathroom.

For the pre-weigh-in ritual, I prepare. I sit on the toilet and drain every ounce of excess weight. Every ounce counts.  And then, I strip the body of all clothing. Socks. Undershirt. Undershorts. And, Smartwatch. Yes, I sleep with to measure sleep time, even though measuring the inverse, insomnia, would be a more useful and interesting data point for researchers.

While I’m sitting pondering life on the toilet, I admire the new scale sitting on the floor in front of me. A Xmas gift from the Kids. An electronic scale from Nokia, the “Body Cardio.” It has a smooth, gunmetal finish, and was manufactured by some craftsman (craftswoman?) in Espoo, Finland. You step on the scale and its gremlins beam your weight, heart rate, fat mass, muscle mass, water and bone mass, directly to your Health Mate smartphone app. A miracle, really, all of it.

I reach for the counter to raise myself ever so gently from the toilet, trying to avoid ripping the sutures. The eyes skitter frantically trying to avoid the midsection. But as hard as they try, they can’t: Unavoidable. From the waist down to the upper thigh, the skin is discolored, a dark, deep purple – Skin’s way of saying: “Listen Pal, while you were resting peacefully under anesthesia for this ‘routine’ surgery, I was getting chopped up.” And if that wasn’t enough, there was swelling, significant swelling around the incision and freakish skin discoloration of all of Man’s reproductive organs. And this swelling is not that which you find part of the normal, reproductive process. Routine surgery? Will this all work again? A nightmare, really.

The heat is turned down overnight, I’m standing on cold floor tile, I shiver. Can’t bear to look.

I look back up.  I take a deep breath, and deliberately take one step and then the other to stand on the cool metal scale. The eyes are panicked, doing everything possible to bypass the midsection carnage and focus on the digital readout.

The scale recognizes the weight, which triggers a digital read-out: “Happy New Year David.” The ‘Happy New Year’ is wrapped in beautiful white fireworks. Nice touch. I hope the Happy part commences soon. The scale mechanically proceeds through its sequence of weight (including day over day up/down change), my heart rate, BMI, muscle mass, water and bone mass. Then it offers up the previous day’s step count. And, shares today’s weather, the high and low temperature.  Miracle, all of it.

So, we can stop here. Breath deeply and say, ok, life goes on.

But there’s more. A wee bit more to this story. [Read more…]

part of the painting’s magic is that it brings together its time and yours, its place and yours

If you have ever stood in a room in front of a painting by Munch, or Van Gogh or Rembrandt for that matter, you will know that part of the painting’s magic is that it brings together its time and yours, its place and yours, and there is comfort in that, because even the distance that is inherent in loneliness is suspended in that moment.

– Karl Ove Knausgård, in a preface for a catalog for: Edvard Munch: Between the Clock and the Bed – an exhibition at the Met Breuer, New York City, November 15, 2017–February 4, 2018. (The New York Review of Books, Dec 7 2017)


Notes:

  1. Post Inspiration. Rainer Maria Rilke from The Poetry of RilkeNothing is too small: against a gold background / I paint it large and lovingly / and hold it high, and I will never know / whose soul it may release.
  2. Art: Edvard Munch, “The Sick Child” (1907) via San Francisco Chronicle
  3. Quote Source – ekphora.

Sunday Morning: Perhaps, that is enough.

While not a believer himself, Mr. Ruse harbors a great deal of sympathy for those who find ultimate meaning in the universe and their lives through worship. Taking his cue from his own Quaker upbringing, he argues that three things remain deeply satisfying in life, even if philosophically one ends up on the side of Epicurus and his denial of design: family; a life of service to others; and, not surprisingly for a philosopher, the life of the mind. For many people, there is indeed purpose in each of these, and perhaps, Mr. Ruse suggests, that is enough.

~ John Farrell, from his “Review: To What End is All This?” where Farrell reviews ‘On Purpose’ by Michael Ruse


 

Photo of Dr. Michael Ruse via Strange Notions

Each small accomplishment completed brings me closer to…what exactly? The finish line?

katrina-kenison.jpg

All month I’ve been making lists, crossing things off lists, making new lists – grocery lists, to-do lists, gift lists. Somehow the act of writing things down and crossing them out calms me, as if each small accomplishment or task completed brings me closer to…what exactly? The finish line?

Of course, the idea of completion is an illusion. There will be to-dos until the day when there aren’t, and I’m certainly not in any hurry to get there. Nor do I want to look at December 25 as the end of some silly holiday race.

So my challenge today, and every day this season, is to simply relax into the day’s doings, whatever they may be. One thing I’ve learned over the years is that the closer I stay to home and hearth during these short, dark days, the more peaceful I feel.

~ Katrina Kenison, from “Spicy Holiday Granola” (December 15, 2017)

Why My Family Takes a Thanksgiving Vow of Silence

nina-li-coomes

For many years, my family took a vow of silence over Thanksgiving, retreating to a Catholic seminary perched on a small lake in Libertyville, Illinois. The rules of the Thanksgiving Silent Retreat were simple: no talking, no reading, no watching TV or listening to music. We were allowed to draw, or write, or play the grand piano in the pink-carpeted seminary lounge, but were not to bring books or use our laptops or phones. […]

Consider the Thanksgiving table, groaning under the weight of abundance: jeweled cranberries winking in orange-spiced syrups; the skin of the turkey rubbed and brined and roasted to crispy perfection; mounds of potatoes fluffed into chive-flecked clouds; green beans and stuffing and marshmallow-topped yams. Circling these dishes, the yawning promise of empty plates, and yet—above the whole table floats a cottony haze of silence. No one speaks. No one asks you to pass the salt, to refill the wine. What would that be like? How do you think you might feel and exist in that silent, still place?

Click here for the punch line and the entire story: Why My Family Takes a Thanksgiving Vow of Silence by Nina Li Coomes.

It’s Thanksgiving. Come On Home.

I would be spending Thanksgiving in Philadelphia, a thousand miles from home…“I don’t think I can stand it here,” I said during the weekly call to my parents that Sunday. “I don’t know if I can do this.”

“Just come home,” my father said. I was crying by then. “It’s too late,” I said. “It’s way too late.”

“You can always come home, Sweet,” he said…

Those were words of loving reassurance from a parent to his child, a reminder that as long as he and my mother were alive, there would always be a place in the world for me, a place where I would always belong, even if I didn’t always believe I belonged there.

But I wonder now, three decades later, whether my father’s words were more than a reminder of my everlasting place in the family. I wonder now whether they were also an expression of his own longing for the days when all his chicks were still in the nest, when the circle was still closed and the family he and my mother had made was complete. We were an uncommonly close family, and I was the first child to leave home. But I gave no thought to my parents’ own loneliness as they pulled away from the curb in front of my apartment in Philadelphia, an empty U-Haul rattling behind Dad’s ancient panel van, for the drive back to Alabama without me.

I gave no thought to it then, but I think of it all the time now. My youngest child left for college in August, and this house has never seemed so empty. It’s not actually empty. My husband is still here, and my father-in-law still comes over for supper most nights. Because we have a big extended family and friends often passing through on their way somewhere else, hardly a week goes by without guests in our guest room. Last summer, anticipating my own sadness once our sons were at school, I put out the word in our neighborhood that I was happy to be a backup car pool driver or homework wrangler, but the presence of borrowed children in this house, though joyful, is also an aching reminder of the years gone by with my own.

No matter how full my life is with marriage and work and relatives and friends and the cares of citizenship in a struggling world, I miss my children. Every day, I miss my children, and as I wait for them to come home for Thanksgiving, I think of my father’s words across a bad landline connection in 1984 that reached my homesick heart in cold Philadelphia. I remember the 26-hour bus ride into the heart of Greyhound darkness that followed, a desperate journey that got me home in time for the squash casserole and the cranberry relish, and I hope my sons know now as surely as I knew it then, as surely as I have known it my entire life: Whatever happens, they can always come home. They can always, always come on home.

~ , excerpts from “It’s Thanksgiving. Come On Home.” (The New York Times, Nov 22, 2017)


Notes: Essay – Thank you Rachel. Illustration – Pinterest

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